APPLICATIONS / Vegetated Wetland

Ethel M Chocolates (Henderson, NV)

Ethel M’s wastewater treatment system treats up to 32,000 gallons per day of high-strength confectionery production wastewater. The influent consistsEthel M Chocolates of water that has been used to wash the process area and equipment, along with water from the boilers and cooling towers. Following the treatment process, the final product is near drinking water quality and can be reused for a variety of applications.

Process Wastewater is pumped from a grease trap into sealed aerobic reactors where microbial communities begin digesting the waste. A biofilter scrubs odors from exhaust gases at this stage of treatment. In the planted aerobic tanks, vegetation hosts organisms that further digest the waste while minimizing sludge generation. Final Polishing Filters using ESCS media further polish the water and remove suspended solids. Final effluent is stored in an attractive pond/wetland and, after ultraviolet treatment is used to irrigate one of the world’s leading cactus gardens. Sludge is composted on-site by a reed bed and removed every five to ten years as a beneficial soil amendment.

Benefits The zero discharge nature of the Living Machine® System eliminates sewer surcharges and conserves water. The on-site biosolids treatment reduces costs associated with off-site sludge disposal. This Living Machine® System is a totally biological system with no chemicals used in the treatment process. It is computer-controlled and relatively simple to operate. Ethel M Chocolates has added the Living Machine® System to their well-established factory tour so it can be viewed seven days a week.

YMCA Camp (Gig Harbor, WA)

The YMCA Camp Seymour is a unique environmental education center and residential camp located within a small inlet on Puget Sound in YMCA Camp SeymourWashington State. As part of a plan to accommodate an increase in the number of annual visitors to this year-round residential camp, a great deal of consideration was given to preserving natural resources and minimizing environmental impacts within the Camp’s local environment. Camp Seymour wastewater system was designed to achieve advanced quality effluent suitable for re-use for an average flow of 10,000 gallons per day and future plans to expand the system to accommodate up to 14,000 gallons per day. Indoor waste treatment components placed within a greenhouse allow the system to become an integral part of the educational experience and environmental curriculum at the Camp.


Septic waste from a variety of sources including staff housing, cabins, common bath facilities and the Camp kitchen, flow by gravity to a network of septic tanks where the coarse solids are removed. From the septic tanks, the effluent is pumped to an equalization tank/dosing tank where denitrification of the waste occurs. Next the waste is pumped to textile trickling filters in doses and the conversion of ammonia to nitrate (nitrification) begins.

From the textile filters, the waste is pumped indoors to a series of six open Hydroponic Reactor tanks, each hosting a diverse population of aquatic plants and organisms. In this oxygenated environment the communities of macro and microorganisms work to further break down the waste and remove any remaining dissolved organic matter. From the reactors, the effluent flows outdoors to two constructed wetlands, utilizing ESCS media and finally is disinfected with an ultraviolet light.

Treated effluent is stored for reuse on-site to irrigate a playing field. The school also plans to reuse this treated effluent for toilet flushing in any buildings added to the campus in the future. The Living Machine® system at Camp Seymour allowed the Camp to expand its facilities with little or no additional impact resulting from an increase in wastewater generated. Furthermore, this unique assembly of ecologically engineered subsystems does not require processing or disposal of secondary biosolids. In addition, the Living Machine® system provides classroom space and has become an important component of the Camp’s environmental curriculum.